Day 1: Opinions & Observations

The first day of fall camp is in the books and here are some opinions and observations from Sonny and Shea.

Note: The following is a compilation of notes and thoughts from Sonny and Shea


The first day of fall camp is in the books and it was your typical first day to some degree.


As expected, the players were getting back into their routines and getting acclimated to the heat so no real surprises there.


In the morning session, the quarterbacks threw to receivers for about eight of the 20 minutes we were allowed to watch practice and it was about what we expected. Both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee threw some nice passes but the timing and execution wasn’t what you would want, but what you would expect for the first day of camp.


Jefferson carries himself in a much more confident manner than he did 12 months ago and he showed the strong arm he is known for.


For all of the trials and tribunes that Lee has gone through since the middle of last year he showed no signs of it with the way he carried himself. He also looks like he has slimmed down some from last year when he was listed at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds. He’s still listed at that but we have a feeling the heights and weights have not yet been updated on LSU's official website.


One thing that we noticed with Lee when the quarterbacks were working on rolling out and some option is that he looks a little more nimble on his feet and his footwork on his drops seemed a little more precise. Of course, the real test comes when there is a defense on the field and unfortunately we will have to wait until Washington unless Les Miles alters his philosophy with the media which is doubtful as we only get to see individual drills.


In the afternoon the two young gun slingers – Russell Shepard and Chris Garrett – got plenty of reps as the only two quarterbacks out there.


Shepard, the nation’s top-ranked dual-threat quarterback, is not going to show his versatility in passing drills. Yet, the Houston-native’s arm is looking better than where he was at towards the end of the spring. It is evident that strides have been made, and Miles stuck to his word and put Shepard in green alongside Garrett to begin the fall.


Garrett, as mentioned in the spring, looks great thus far – showing good arm strength and putting most of his throws right on point. The staff sung the Tupelo-native’s praises following the spring, and there is no doubt that the Tigers have landed a solid set of prospects in the 2009 class.


D.J. McCarthy commented on this when we interviewed him for the position preview we did on the wideouts prior to the start of camp and there was no doubt that Brandon LaFell has taken a leadership role on this team and the other players appear to be on board with him.


Terrence Toliver also appeared to be more confident by the way he conducted himself in the drills and also afterwards in giving the young guys some encouragement. Chris Tolliver and Chris Mitchell both flashed some quickness at getting off the line and R.J. Jackson finally looked comfortable running his routes and catching the ball.


Those eager to see Rueben Randle at receiver finally got their wish later in the day but another true freshman was just as impressive with some nice acrobatic catches.


Randle (6-3, 201) looked like a skinny Brandon LaFell at this juncture of his career. The Bastrop standout looks the part of an SEC receiver, and he will certainly be counted on alongside LaFell, Terrance Toliver and Co. this fall. He ran smooth routes and showed great hands, separating himself from the rest of the group on nearly every drill. There is little doubt that the Tigers have landed one of the nation’s best.


The hidden gem of the class, however, might be Claiborne. At 6-feet, 171 pounds, the Shreveport-native will need to put on weight, but that is about it. Claiborne showed tremendous hands (possibly the best of the group), and the balls coming from the pair of freshmen arms were certainly not all on the money. After watching him run through 10-15 minutes of action, it seems clear that Claiborne will fit in nicely in offensive coordinator Gary Crowton’s offense. However, Miles also indicated that Claiborne will get a good look at corner this fall too.


The tight ends worked mostly on some technique at getting off the line and with blocking but they did get in on some bootleg passes with the QBs towards the end of the morning practice with Richard Dickson, Alex Russian and Mitch Joseph getting reps.


DeAngelo Peterson was missing from the morning workout and a lot of that had to do with LSU not signing a tight end in the 2009 class so he and Tyler Edwards worked out in the afternoon with the freshmen and some select veterans.


Peterson looks as if he could really be a threat in LSU's offense this year with the matchup problems he could pose coming off the line and also when Crowton lines him out wide and gives him some space. He has tremendous quickness off the line and has added some serious muscle since last year.


Miles commented over the summer that LSU's offensive line could be one of the better ones he’s had in his four years in Baton Rouge and there are numerous impressive looking guys that not only pass the eyeball test but also show a lot of athleticism with the way they move.


Not much else you can say about Ciron Black that hasn’t been said and it was good to see Patrick Lonergan working with the 1’s in the morning at center.


The guy that really looks good, though, is Josh Dworaczyk. He has gone from a tall, skinny kid when he came out of Catholic of New Iberia to a guy who is starting to develop an NFL-body. Listed at 6-foot-6, 286 pounds, Dworaczyk looks as if he’s benefitted tremendously from Tommy Moffitt’s strength and conditioning program and you can tell a big difference in his arms, or guns as some like to call them.


Chris Faulk was the only true freshman working out with the older guys and it doesn’t happen often but don’t be surprised to see him playing early in the season. He needs to improve on his conditioning – as one would expect from not being able to workout for four months after suffering an injury in the Army All-American Game in January – but he looks like the one true freshman offensive lineman that is capable of getting on the field.


Josh Williford was missing from the afternoon practice as he has some conditioning that he needs to tend to and Cordian Hagans saw some time at right guard in the later session. Hagans to offensive line could be permanent but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.


Akiem Hicks was the other 2009 signee working out with the morning group and there was a noticeable difference in footspeed and footwork compared to other defensive tackles such as Drake Nevis, Al Woods, Charles Alexander and so on. If Hicks was a true freshman I’d say his future is on the offensive side of the ball but with LSU's need on the defensive side that may not be possible. With that said about the footwork and quickness we have to keep in mind that he wasn’t going through as intense workouts as the others this summer while he worked to become eligible.


Speaking of footwork and footspeed, Lavar Edwards was really something as well as Drake Nevis and Chancey Aghayere looked good at times then other times he struggled. Rahim Alem also showed some quick feet along with Alexander and Woods, who both looked in better condition and more impressive physically than we can ever recall.


For nearly the entire time the media was allowed to observe the afternoon session, Miles paid close attention to his young defensive linemen – Chris Davenport, Mike Brockers, Josh Downs, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan and Chase Clement.


Davenport, who checked in at 6-foot-4, 323 pounds, looks the part of an SEC tackle – especially after dropping weight during the offseason. The Mansfield-native was quicker than expected off the line, and we fully expect that he will be worked into the two-deep at the position this fall.


While Davenport and Downs are the big bodies of the group, Montgomery and Brockers showed off their speed.


Montgomery, who at 6’4”, 240 pounds looks the part of a basketball talent, could have been the brightest spot of the defensive end group. His explosion off the line is amazing, and once he adds weight – the sky is the limit.


Brockers (6’6”, 285), who is a bit taller and a good bit heavier than Montgomery, also showed tons of promise. The Texas-native drew lots of praise from special teams coach Joe Robinson and defensive line coach Brick Haley, both of whom worked alongside Brockers on the afternoon. With the energy that the new faces brought to the drills, the defensive line was certainly one of the top attractions this afternoon.


The attention to detail that defensive coordinator/linebackers coach John Chavis demands would get any Tiger fan excited. He does not accept anything less than what he is looking for in his players and after the spring and the first day of the fall it’s easy to see that the players have totally bought into his system.


The Chief worked exclusively with the linebackers in the morning session and when they were hitting the sled he demanded a certain level of explosion. When they didn’t please him he reinforced foot placement to several guys and generating power through their hips. Every time he took extra time with a player you could have heard a pin drop if it hadn’t been for his voice. There was absolutely no playing around by the guys who were waiting for their turn and they were listening intently to his instructions in the time we spent watching the linebackers.


In the afternoon it was Barkevious Mingo and Lamin Barrow getting plenty of pointers from Chavis as well as Kevin Minter, who was there in the spring. Mingo is tall and lanky and desperately needs to add some weight, but the coaches have raved about his speed all summer.


Barrow needs to add some weight as well to his frame but he drew several votes of confidence from Chavis in the individual drills.


Watching Ron Cooper work with the secondary was about as much fun as watching Haley and Chavis work with the defensive line and linebackers, respectively.


Cooper’s guys were listening to every word he preached and even those who were in the back of the line had their eyes focused on Coop when he was instructing guys on what they did wrong.


Brandon Taylor was a bit of a surprise, seeing him work some at strong safety ahead of Ron Brooks, but before we read anything into that we need to see how things shape up when the team hits full squad two-a-days next week.


It’s hard for your eyes not to gravitate towards Patrick Peterson and the way he breaks on the ball and flips his hips is head and shoulders above the other corners. Jai Eugene also showed some good reaction and being able to get out of a break well but you have to wonder if Eugene is going to be able to keep Taylor off the field in the dime package.


Miles commented on how Chad Jones looked like he had put on some weight and it certainly appeared that way to from where we were standing. However, he can still turn and run very well for a safety.


One of the surprises of the afternoon was seeing Stefoin Francois working out with the DB’s – not in a green non-contact jersey either. He looked remarkably quick and changed directions well considering the knee injury that he suffered against Georgia Tech that could have ended his career.


Josh Johns also looked quicker than expected and there are some rumblings that he could see the field as a true freshman on special teams.


There really wasn’t much to say about the running backs with the drills they did but boy it was an impressive looking group in the morning – Charles Scott, Richard Murphy, Keiland Williams and Trindon Holliday – even when they were standing around.


Richard Dugas, who injured his knee in the spring, showed little sign of his injury and when the running backs worked on the ladder drill in the morning his effort prompted running backs coach Larry Porter to yell, “That’s my boy Dugas. That’s how you work it.”


The talk of the summer has been Michael Ford and how he’s looked in offseason workouts and he looked extremely impressive in the afternoon workout.


Ford, who checked in at 5’10”, 207 pounds, looked quick and agile throughout the session. Porter made a number of comments on the groups’ performance, and it seemed Ford was the name out of his mouth the most. With Scott, Williams, Trindon Holliday and Murphy all in the backfield for 2009, the Tigers are not desperately seeking extra help at the spot. Yet, with the rumblings we have heard coupled with seeing Ford in person, we feel like it will be tough for Miles to sit the Leesville-native all season.


After Ford, the place to go is surely at fullback, where Dominique Allen – who checked in at 5’11”, 255 pounds, turned about every head in the complex. The Tennessee-native is a rock - round and unbreakable. He will need to lose some weight before he could go on Saturdays, but he certainly looks the part. In terms of sheer size, there is certainly no immediate fall out from Quinn Johnson to Allen.


Stevan Ridley, however, led off each drill as the selected veteran on the afternoon. Miles said that Ridley is “way ahead of schedule” on his ACL recovery, and the Natchez-native was not wearing a non-contact green jersey on Thursday. The 5’11”, 222-pound fullback looks to be running at full strength, which is great news given that the Tigers were forced to patch together a fullback plan in the spring after injuries sidelined Ridley and Richard Dugas.


Those are just some opinions and observations from the first day of camp and we will have much, much more later.

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